Rooney Rule Gets Much Needed Update from NFL

On Wednesday, the NFL enhanced the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for vacant organization positions.

The Rooney Rule has been in place since 2003. Initially only applying to head coaches, it was expanded in 2009 to cover general managers and other front office roles.

The rule is named after Dan Rooney, the former Pittsburgh Steelers chairman. At one time, he chaired the NFL’s diversity committee. The rule states that NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate for vacant positions.

The updated Rooney Rule mandates that teams must interview a minority candidate from outside the franchise or pick candidates from an NFL approved list.


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Teams with vacant positions will be able to choose from either the league’s career development advisory panel, or from a list of black coaching candidates compiled by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten explained that the updated rule is essentially a combination of the best candidate lists.

“It’s a commingling of both of the lists, so it’s not all minority,” Wooten said.

“What we’ve done is brought the best together … so it comes out on one list. And that’s what will be given to all the clubs. It will make it easier for them to interview the best people.”


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There is a perception that teams carry out interviews with minority candidates as a mere formality, to show compliance. One criticism is that minority candidates were interviewed despite them not having the appropriate experience. Essentially, candidates who never had a chance were interviewed, and never truly considered.

“What we’ve done, I’m talking about the league and all of us working together, has strengthened the Rooney Rule, and it needed to be strengthened,” Wooten said.

“Any rule that you don’t adjust, that you don’t update when it needs to be updated, people will find a way to circumvent it.”

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